Afforestation is the process of planting trees, or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest. The term should not be confused with reforestation, which is the process of specifically planting native trees into a forest that has decreasing numbers of trees. While reforestation is increasing the number of trees of an existing forest, afforestation is the creation of a ‘new’ forest.
Our Earth has been constantly trying to cope with the way in which human beings use natural resources, clear forest lands, cut trees, and contaminate the air, land, and water. Industrial revolution, population bursts, and pollution create permanent damage to the earth, and the result is global warming and climate change.
In such situations,something that can help extend the life of the planet and its living organisms is the increase of natural resources and decrease of exploitation of these resources.
By planting trees and creating forests, many of the commercial needs of human beings are fulfilled, while not destroying what is left of the planet. Afforestation is, therefore, a practice that has been propagated by government and non-government agencies of many countries as a way to stop over-exploitation of nature.
The importance is immense in today’s scenario because it is mainly done for commercial purposes. In a natural forest or woodland, the trees are heterogeneous. Owing to the sensitivity to over usage and slow growths, these forests cannot be used continuously for commercial purposes like wood products. The process of planting trees in empty lands helps promote the fast propagation of specific types of trees for the wood industry.
With the increasing demand for wood fuels and building materials, this process helps to meet these demands without cutting down the natural forests. Deforestation can lead to the depletion of trees in water catchments and riverside zones. Afforestation ensures trees and plants that hold the soil in these sensitive areas remain protected.
Many countries have introduced the practice of planting trees along with agricultural crops in croplands. The benefits of this practice, which is called agroforestry, are:
In terms of the environmental benefits, planting trees is always beneficial whether it takes place in a barren land or is used as a method to regenerate a depleted forest. Trees help check atmospheric carbon dioxide; large scale afforestation can curb the problems caused due to burning of fossil fuels, industrialization and so forth.
Afforesting is a positive effort in curbing the over-use and destruction of natural forests. If done with proper planning and at appropriate sites, it can become a commercially viable solution for many human needs without harming the balance of nature.
Deforestation, the clearing or thinning of forests by humans. Deforestation represents one of the largest issues in global land use. Estimates of deforestation traditionally are based on the area of forest cleared for human use, including removal of the trees for wood products and for croplands and grazing lands. In the practice of clear-cutting, all the trees are removed from the land, which completely destroys the forest. In some cases, however, even partial logging and accidental fires thin out the trees enough to change the forest structure dramatically.
Causes of deforestation
Farming, grazing of livestock, mining, and drilling combined account for more than half of all deforestation. Forestry practices, wildfires and, in small part, urbanization account for the rest. In Malaysia and Indonesia, forests are cut down to make way for producing palm oil, which can be found in everything from shampoo to saltines. In the Amazon, cattle ranching and farms—particularly soy plantations—are key culprits.
Logging operations, which provide the world’s wood and paper products, also fell countless trees each year. Loggers, some of them acting illegally, also build roads to access more and more remote forests—which leads to further deforestation. Forests are also cut as a result of growing urban sprawl as land is developed for homes.
Solutions to stop deforestation
Deforestation affects the people and animals where trees are cut, as well as the wider world. Some 250 million people living in forest and savannah areas depend on them for subsistence and income—many of them among the world’s rural poor. Eighty percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and deforestation threatens species including the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and many species of birds. Removing trees deprives the forest of portions of its canopy, which blocks the sun’s rays during the day and retains heat at night. That disruption leads to more extreme temperature swings that can be harmful to plants and animals.
Yet the effects of deforestation reach much farther. The South American rainforest, for example, influences regional and perhaps even global water cycles, and it’s key to the water supply in Brazilian cities and neighboring countries. The Amazon actually helps furnish water to some of the soy farmers and beef ranchers who are clearing the forest. The loss of clean water and biodiversity from all forests could have many other effects we can’t foresee, touching even your morning cup of coffee.
In terms of climate change, cutting trees both adds carbon dioxide to the air and removes the ability to absorb existing carbon dioxide. If tropical deforestation were a country, according to the World Resources Institute, it would rank third in carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, behind China and the U.S.
The numbers are grim, but many conservationists see reasons for hope. A movement is under way to preserve existing forest ecosystems and restore lost tree cover. Organizations and activists are working to fight illegal mining and logging—National Geographic Explorer Topher White, for example, has come up with a way to use recycled cell phones to monitor for chainsaws. In Tanzania, the residents of Kokota have planted more than 2 million trees on their small island over a decade, aiming to repair previous damage. And in Brazil, conservationists are rallying in the face of ominous signals that the government may roll back forest protections.
For consumers, it makes sense to examine the products and meats you buy, looking for sustainably produced sources when you can. Nonprofit groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance certify products they consider sustainable, while the World Wildlife Fund has a palm oil scorecard for consumer brands.